Matthew J. Walton
This article looks thematically at several important aspects of Buddhist politics in Myanmar, from the precolonial period to the present. It considers a number of arguments regarding the use of Buddhism in both supporting and opposing political authority, especially as they are rooted in a dualistic conception of human nature. It presents several examples of Burmese Buddhist political thought that creatively combine traditional Buddhist ideas with other political ideologies and practices, revealing a once-vibrant tradition that will hopefully be revitalized with the country’s current political transition. The role of monks in politics is controversial in Myanmar, and the article looks at some of the unique aspects of monastic activism, using examples from the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” and the current anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalist movements. Finally, it offers several different strands of democratic thought, including a provocative Burmese Buddhist notion of “moral democracy.”
Gerard P. Loughlin
This chapter considers how gay identities—and so gay affections—were formed in the course of the twentieth century, building on the late nineteenth-century invention of the ‘homosexual’. It also considers earlier construals of same-sex affections and the people who had them, the soft men and hard women of the first century and the sodomites of the eleventh. It thus sketches a history of continuities and discontinuities, of overlapping identities and emotional possibilities. The chapter resists the assumption that gay identity and experience can be reduced to anything less than the multitude of gay people, and that as Christians they have to give an account of themselves in a way that heterosexual Christians do not. The chapter warns against thinking gay identity undone in Christ.
In confronting questions of the origin of existence, asserting belief in an ultimate spiritual source of phenomena, and striving for a relationship between it and human beings, Hindu theology identifies sexuality as a valid and necessary explanation. Both on the theogonic plane and the worldly, Hindu thought associates sexuality with gender, but treats the latter as a fluid identity rather than natural and essential, viewing it as a product more of the will than of physiology, an ever-present but negotiable perception, since it can be willed into altered states. This is illustrated both by the myths of Hinduism and by its devotional cultures. Observing the evolution of Hindu theology, its major traditions, and its worship practices chronologically, this chapter demonstrates why and how sexuality and gender may serve as keys to understand Hindu spirituality.
Mary Jo Iozzio
This chapter examines how sex figures in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how the pandemic may be understood in the light of God’s extravagance and hope for the future. Sex is one of those gifts that human beings have received at the hands of a God of extravagance: a God of infinite possibility, copious generosity, and unparalleled solidarity. The very creation is a manifestation of a fecund imagination and God’s own joy writ large enough to witness sexual diversity—from asexual to heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer—among all living beings. In the human community the gift of sex and one’s identity as a sexual being include the purposes and promises of the extravagance that is sexual creativity in and through diversity. This chapter explores what insights theology can bring to the purposes of sex as creativity/generativity and intimacy-building communion/pleasure, and what intuitions theology can bring to the promises of sex as transcendent experience.
Intersex and transgender are discrete issues and should not be conflated. However, both phenomena, and the experiences of both groups of people, demonstrate the limitations of existing theologies of sexuality which assume stable and binary models of human maleness and femaleness. Sexual theologies for intersex and transgender people must take into account a range of issues, including the reality of variant sex and gender; the question of same-sex relationships; the theological significance of non-penetrative sexual activity; the challenges of unusual genital anatomy; ethical issues surrounding sought and unsought genital surgery; discourses of pathological versus variant embodiment; and questions of vulnerability and safety in sexual encounter. Drawing on liberationist theological goods, this chapter points to the necessity for non-pathologizing theological accounts of variant sex and gender.
This chapter analyses the Qur’an’s position on theology, sexuality, and gender, with the intent of challenging readings of Islam as a patriarchy. It illustrates that missing from Islam’s scripture is the imaginary of God as father/male and endorsements of father-rule (the traditional form of patriarchy), as well as any concept of sexual differentiation that privileges males (more modern forms of patriarchy). Indeed, many Qur’anic teachings can be read on behalf of the principle of sexual equality since they establish the ontological equality of women and men and emphasize the need for mutual care and guardianship between them. Both by re-reading some of the ‘anti-women’ verses and by applying a hermeneutical method to interpret the Qur’an—which is implicit in the text itself—the chapter also demonstrates that different interpretive strategies can change our understanding of textual meaning.
This article examines the hitherto unquestioned consensus in Judaic studies that Judaism embraces a positive attitude towards sexuality. Grounded in the new scholarly trends of cultural and gender analysis as well as feminist critique and their impact on Jewish studies, it singles out four focal issues: sexuality in ancient rabbinic thought, to which the most scholarly attention has been directed; and issues in modern Halakhah that have just begun to inform scholarly research: the ethos of modesty and the construction of the female body; homosexuality and lesbianism; and reproduction and sexuality. The discussion reflects the tension between these two scholarly trends, and between the conceptual-theological stratum of Judaism and its reflection in the practical-legal sphere of Jewish law (Halakhah). This examination of Jewish attitudes towards sexuality, in light of the new scholarship, leads to the conclusion that although Judaism affirms sexuality, this cannot be grasped in a simple, superficial, or monolithic fashion.
This essay is situated within the sexual theologies discipline—that is, it will not consider what theology has said about lesbians. It will rather engage with what lesbian experience has offered traditional Christian theology. Perhaps this can be best summed up in the words of Carter Heyward who wrote ‘To say “I love you” means—Let the revolution begin!’ Once lesbians in theology found a voice, what we witness is indeed a revolution as the diverse face of the divine began to emerge from what had been a ‘one size fits all’ theology in matters of sexuality and ethics. Far from simply stating that the norm did not fit all sexualities and genders, many lesbian theologians moved on to say that the norm did not even do justice to those seen as normal and that the heteronormative underpinnings of theology actually crippled it.